Posted by: petemangurian | May 9, 2013

This Is Not Who We Are

Earlier today Dianne Murphy and I wrote a letter to the University community. This is my opportunity to share my personal thoughts on my blog.

I am offended and disappointed with the remarks made by our players online. This is not who we are.

Right now I’m concerned with who is just saying incredibly inappropriate things and who has a real social problem. The outcome is the same, the perception is the same, but my concern is the cure may not be the same. I want to cure this illness. There is no place for it on our team or anywhere else. I will not single out anyone; that has already been done. The actions of a few affect everyone who touches this program. When the headline reads “A Columbia Football Player”, that includes everyone.

Obviously we have addressed the players and their twitter accounts. It is not the first time we have addressed this issue. We met as a team during training camp, and were very clear about our expectations and standards. The team was addressed by the sports information staff. I was present and signed off on the presentation. The majority of the team understood, and did, what they were asked to do. Others did not. I didn’t feel that it was necessary to check back that our players understood our expectations for them. Obviously, I was wrong.

The inappropriate nature of the comments is second to the motivation and social perspective that generated them. I really think there are two issues here; the response to each should be different. There are circumstances here that are important to keep in mind. While there is a penalty component to these actions, there is an educational component as well.

Regarding the offensive tweets: some of these statements were made before these players were part of our team. It would seem that our team meetings concerning appropriate use of social media and being responsible members of the University community were effective with those young men. Some of these tweets were made by players, that for reasons other than this particular incident, are no longer on this team. Finally, there are some players that are a part of our team and therefore warrant our immediate, and from this point on, ongoing attention.

I do not believe that it is my place – or that of anyone at the University – to monitor everything our players say privately or publicly. I thought that I could expect our players to use much greater responsibility in how they speak and act. This is what is so disappointing to me.

I want to make sure whatever action we take is meaningful. I believe we can and should address this from a team wide perspective in addition to dealing with individual cases. There are programs that address and educate on these types of issues. I am reluctant to use a “cookie cutter” approach. I want to find the most effective program I can. I want there to be a human element to these actions. Respect is born from humility. Obviously in some cases we have lacked both. As individuals we need to interact with, or directly involve ourselves with, the community of people to whom we have shown such insensitivity. That will be far more effective than a lecture program. I am currently in the process of making sure that happens. Finally, I have taken disciplinary action in cases that I feel involve a legitimate social issue as opposed to the immaturity and bad judgment that goes along with making highly inappropriate and disrespectful statements.

I apologize to the Columbia community for this embarrassment. Some will see this as a referendum on our entire team. What I say or do will not change their opinion, and that is alright. I am more concerned with this program’s responsibility to produce young men that reflect the values of the Columbia community as a whole. I have said before that our program will ultimately be judged by the kind of people we send out into the world. I remain committed to that statement. If we do the things to make sure that happens, the rest will take care of itself.

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  1. Your comments and sentiments are appreciated, Coach. I am puzzled that tweets that were posted several weeks, if not months.ago don’t seem to have been been handled..
    Anyway, I look forward to meeting you (again) next week in Beverly Hills.

  2. Great letter, Coach, good things will come of this. Would be interested to hear about the interactive activities.

    • Fill you in as we go.

      • Thanks, Pete. If you care to comment, I’m curious as to what you think of the petition…it looks strongly supported by the students.


      • Thanks, Coach!

  3. I do not believe that an educational program will remedy the situation. Expecting a bigot (or in your case, multiple bigots) to embrace the concept of humility after a program is as ridiculous as expecting an atheist to embrace God after Sunday Mass.

    The harm has already been done. The actions of your student-athletes are despicable, and has cast a great deal of shame upon the entire Columbia community. Student-athletes represent the entire Columbia community. As long as these individuals remain Columbia athletes, all of those in the community will suffer the burden of their actions. Should they be allowed to remain, Columbia will be known not only to have given preferential treatment, but also to have indirectly endorsed racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia.

    These individuals are not boys vying for honor and success in collegiate sports any more; they are men that have committed grave transgressions, and thus must treated in accordance with the sordid nature of their actions.

    I would ask you, Coach Mangurian, is the reputation of the whole institution worth putting on the line?

  4. As a lawyer who has dealt with poorly thought out electronic communications by corporate executives, I tell clients that email Twitter, etc are tantamount to wiretapping your own conversation and handing the world the tape – and you can’t completely purge your online record when it no longer suits you, like whe you interview for a job or find yourself in court. Sounds like the team was told that. Unfortunate that an incident like this is needed to bring the lesson home to some. Thanks for taking the right steps, Coach.

  5. What isn’t clear to me is why players who had posted hateful and offensive twitter comments in high school were recruited in the first place. Shouldn’t a cursory google search be done about players before we sign them on to the team? I saw one example of a homophobic tweet made in high school by a current freshman football player. I would think it should already be standard to check publicly posted twitter accounts, especially when football recruitment goes to such great lengths to scour the country for new prospects.

    I guess I’m wondering whether recruitment is based solely on athletic ability, or whether character—both on *and* off the field—is taken to account in recruiting.

    Coach Mangurian, if you found a promising high school player who was excited about playing for the Columbia football team, but took a look at their public twitter feed and found homophobic/racist/sexist comments, would you still recruit the player anyway? Or would those offensive tweets disqualify the player from recruitment?

    Do you think other prospective students who are not athletic recruits would still be accepted to Columbia if they were found during the application process to have posted homophobic/racist/sexist twitter comments?

    • I assume that you believe that these are some more kids the school should expel because of their poor character which reflects poorly on the institution:

      Which Columbia administrator/teacher/dean is to blame for these tweets?

  6. Coach, based on today’s update in Bwog,

    it seems that some of the team:

    a) does not take this as seriously as you are
    b) does not seem to respect the coaching staff
    c) appears to be demonstrating a “social problem” as you mention above.

    If the story is validated, would these players remain on the football team?

    • They are graduating seniors, they are not on the team any longer. Furthermore they were not at the meetings in which these issues were discussed.

  7. Coach, interesting that you’re only allowing praise in your feedback section. Makes me take your written comments with a newfound sense of skepticism.

  8. Michael Gerst had by far and away the worst Tweets. He went after everyone under the sun, and during his time at Columbia. If he is not off the team, alumni, fans and the greater New York community will withhold donations, and hold you accountable. Also, the remarks about Jews in New York City from Thomas Callahan? Maybe it’s time for you to show some backbone and resign. This is not over because you made a blog post about it. People do not feel comfortable sending their children to Columbia with this culture pervading it.

    • Please; the coach doesn’t need to resign because his players made stupid choices. He’s their coach, not their legal guardian. Let’s not be silly. And frankly, Coach Mangurian’s blog post is significantly more contrite and serious about fixing this problem than any other public statement made by te university to date. I’d rather see all those other admins with their generic canned responses tossed out befor the Coach who seems serious about addressing this leaves.

  9. Michael Gerst was already off the team for his whole sophomore year (as far as I know, and maybe it had to do with his attitude). I think Coach was blindsided by this mess and he’s doing his best to deal with it. If the administration, along with their own initiatives, gives due regard to the excellent student petition, this could lead to some very postive developments in dealing with the pernicious issue of bigotry, including the future screening of recruits for anti-social tendencies (which would probably significantly reduce the pool of football recruits, unfortunately). I don’t think it’s far-fetched to envision Columbia as a leader in the fight against predjudice as a result of groundbreaking remedial actions.

  10. Coach Mangurian, your evaluation and response to this situation could not have been better. If you follow your own prescriptions, as I’m sure you will, I am confident these issues will be resolved to the benefit of all students, the team and the university. I take enormous issue with the overwrought, unfair and shallow remarks of “Aleksi” who believes the immature, thoughtless and yes, vulgar outbursts of some teen-agers–I’m sure football players are not the only students who spout hurtful remarks–have crumbled the foundations of this college, its football program and the universe itself.
    You and the football program are not the parents of the players in question,
    You are not their siblings, relatives, friends, or high school teachers and guidance counselors. You are not even the Admissions Office. You do have a responsibility to take action to correct pernicious conduct by any players publicly aimed at any
    Innocent victims and I’m sure you will.
    The most disturbing comment by Aleksi is his strenuous assertion that every 18-year-old with a misinformed or crude attitude is absolutely beyond redemption forever. That’s truly a misinformed and crude attitude on his part.
    If that were true, why bother doing anything?

    This is not the end of Columbia, football or the universe.

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